I’ve been exploring this moor for many years.
The Kopstone, gatekeeper of the moor. Looking towards Shap with the Howgills in the distance. The low escarpment on the upper left of the picture is Knipe Scar with its limestone stone circle, part of a chain of at least a dozen intervisible prehistoric monuments in the Lowther valley from Oddendale in the south to the Leacet circle in the north.
There is a loose alignment of monuments running across the moor, walking between this large pair of stones leads you towards the cairn circle known as Moor Divock 4
Stan Beckensall believes that the roughly circular area, below the arrow in the picture, is an eroded cup and ring motif. I have stared at this stone many times and in many lights, the eye of faith is required.
Moving west, this embanked alignment of large upright stones has previously been interpreted as the remains of a circle.
Continuing west, an avenue of small, paired stones leads you across the moor towards the White Raise Cairn
Arriving at White Raise the western landscape opens out, the builders of the mound chose well when they selected this spot. The large white limestone block in the centre of the picture is thought to have served as a cover for the cist.
Onwards across the moor following the route of the Roman Road which deviates towards the circle indicating that this route existed long before the Romans arrived on our shores
When the Bronze Age people erected the monuments on the moor, the Cockpit may have already been regarded as an ancient monument.
The Cockpit was probably the first stone circle I ever visited.
Looking west across the moor from the Cockpit to White Raise and the Pennines beyond. Thinking about the journey home.
The Prehistoric Remains on Moordivock near Ullswater by M. Waistell Taylor. TCWAAS 001. 1886
The Stone Circles of Cumbria by John Waterhouse. Phillimore & Co. 1985
Map extract Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Who could resist visiting a place with such a wonderful name?
I first visited this place in 2004, at that time very little was known about this strange oval earthwork. The site, on the margins of Brackenber Moor, has since been the subject of an Archaeological investigation by the Appleby Archaeological Group and North Pennines Archaeology. They have concluded that the site, and a number of burial mounds located across the moor, are Bronze Age in date.
On the ground there is very little to see. The surrounding moorland is a mix of rough pasture and a golf course. The site occupies a spit of land overlooking the George Ghyll. The ditch and bank are visible and there are a few lumps and bumps within the enclosure. What excites me about this place is the beautiful red sandstone crag and cave located on the edge of the Ghyll.
Dropping down to the Ghyll just beyond a large standing stone
Aeolian (wind-blown) in origin, the Permian Penrith Sandstone Formation formed approximately 272 to 299 million years ago in a desert environment
The main cave could easily house two or three people comfortably. There are many birds nests in the niches in and around the main cave.
The 5th hole looks towards Roman Fell.
The linear dykes of the Tabular Hills of north east Yorkshire are the third largest group in Britain both in area and the number of dykes.
The Scamridge Dykes are the most famous of the North Yorkshire Dykes, they run six abreast in a large curve for almost three kilometers from the scarp edge of Troutsdale south to the head of Kirkdale. Their scale can only really be appreciated from the air. The dykes are thought to be prehistoric in origin, they most probably define prehistoric territorial boundaries
The Cockmoor Dykes also run south from the Troutsdale scarp where as six large dykes. As they run south to Wydale they are joined by another fourteen smaller parallel dykes. The six large dykes are thought to be prehistoric and the additional dykes are thought to be burrowing mounds connected with the large-scale rabbit warrening industry of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
My friend Chris Corner and I took a trip down to the Tabular Hills to have a look at these mighty earthworks. We started by trying to find an embanked pit alignment at Givendale but found nothing apart from dense conifer woodland, debris and deep forestry plough ruts. We moved east to Cockmoor.
The multiple small dykes at Cockmoor, probably the result of commercial rabbit warrening.
One of three round barrows on the margins of the Cockmoor Dykes. The other two barrows have been destroyed by agricultural activities.
The rabbits have all gone. Tiny spoil heaps in the sides of the dyke, probably caused by burrowing miner bees.
One of the six large Cockmoor Dykes running down to the scarp edge overlooking Troutsdale.
A Penny Bun & Oysters
The Scamridge Dykes form a dense mixed woodland corridor across the large open fields.
We dropped down into Troutsdale and come across this beautiful abandoned building. Chris informs me that it is a school house built in 1870
Linear Earthworks of the Tabular Hills, North East Yorkshire. D.A Spratt 1989
Solstice sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”).
On a gloomy day I had little expectation of seeing the Solstice sun. I decided to seek out a Prehistoric Rock Art panel near Roxby. The site is located across from a narrow ridge that runs from the moorland to the coast. The ridge was formed by Roxby and Easington Becks running in parallel towards the coast cutting deep ravines into the glacial till. At some points the ridge narrows to the width of the track with near-sheer drops on both sides.
There are three known Prehistoric burial mounds in this valley. One in the woodland 250m to the west of the carved stone and another pair 1km south where the Birch Hall and Scaling Becks merge to form the Roxby Beck.
I follow the muddy footpath from Ridge lane down through the woods to a small gorge where a wooden bridge crosses the beck. The sound of running water is everywhere. The low solstice sun finally makes an appearance.
At the top of the bank the woods give way to fields. The field is pegged out for pheasant shooting. I spot a wooden structure on the hillside roughly where the stone should be.
The stone sits on swampy ground at the foot a low hill. The landowner has erected a fence around it to prevent damage from livestock.
The stone is beautiful, it contains a number of different motifs, different sized cups, some with rings, linear motifs and a couple of faint rings that seem to ‘zone’ certain areas of the stone. Many of the cups are quite eroded, you have to move around the stone to catch the light falling across the surface, revealing the fainter carvings.
Quite a lot of stone has been dumped on the boggy ground. A spring breaks through at the stone and runs down through the field to the Beck.
The Solstice sun breaks through beside a dump of large boulders.
When showing people rock art for the first time, they invariably come up with their own definitive interpretation of the meaning, usually a map/chart related explanation. Show them a second and third panel and they begin to develop doubts.
Over the years I have visited many rock art sites both home and abroad. I’ve concluded that we will probably never really know the true meaning of the carvings because we can never know the mindset of the people who created them. The best explanation that I can come up with is that the carvings may be an abstract representation of an invisible reality for the people who carved them and that the meaning may change depending on the locality. On the North York Moors there seems to be an association with burial monuments and trackways but this is not always the case.
A couple of years ago I attended a workshop at MIMA They invited people to help create a timeline for local art. My suggestion was Prehistoric Rock Art along with prehistoric pottery, sadly neither suggestions were included in the final timeline.
Light constantly changes as weather moves rapidly from the west
A stoat tracks my progress across the moor
The ruins of an ancient settlement can be found in the bracken
An ancient cairn, four millennia of beaten bounds
The reliable instability of limestone – the stone circle slowly sinking, the gill slowly growing
Eel Hill – scrying stone
I’ve visit Maiden Castle a number of times, every time I visit I come away a little more confused.
The site is cut into the side of High Harker Hill, above an old Corpse Road, if you weren’t aware of its location you would be unlikely to stumble across it.
There are two long barrows/cairns associated with the enclosure, one is located on high ground to the west of the site, the other is at the eastern end of a massive stone avenue. The barrows are thought to be late Neolithic/Bronze age in date
Two linear mounds of stone up to 1.5m high form a unique feature, an avenue which runs for over 100m from a large ruined barrow to the entrance of the enclosure.
The enclosure ditch is up to 4m deep in places with the bank rising between 4-5m above the ditch. The counterscarp on the south side of the enclosure rises above the rampart top. This means that it is possible to overlook the enclosure from the outside implying that the enclosure was not built for defence.
Inside the enclosure there are two circular settings that are thought to be hut circles. A recent geophysical survey has revealed other possible hut circles within the enclosure. There is also small cist visible within the centre of the structure.
Due to its uniqueness and the lack of any dateable material, Archaeologists are unable to suggest a definitive time period for the monument. A date range from the Bronze Age to Romano-British period has been suggested.
This monument should not be seen an an isolated site. The location of the monument in the wider landscape may give some clues to its purpose.
Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Why did the Romans build a fort at Bainbridge? Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Archaeological Group. 2009
The road on Percy Rigg runs from Rosedale Head to Guisborough. The section that runs over Percy Rigg is called Ernaldsti, after Ernald de Percy, Lord of Kildale. On a grim drizzly day I decided to walk the road from its junction with the Kildale – Commondale road to Percy Cross.
The surrounding moors are also dotted with standing stones, some are prehistoric, others are estate boundary stones. There are the remains of a large prehistoric settlement on the south west slope of Brown Hill. In 1953 Archaeologist Paul Ashbee excavated a number of small cairns and a large round barrow on Brown Hill. He discovered a rock-cut burial pit beneath the barrow and very little in the cairns, concluding that they were probably clearance cairns.A number of the earthfast stones beside the road are marked with benchmarks.
Local Archaeologist Roland Close excavated a group of hut circles beside the road. He found two large huts with paved floors, two smaller huts with central hearths and one hut with drainage ditches cutting through the two smaller huts. The main finds were nine saddle querns and some poorly-fired pottery sherds.
Close published his excavation in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. In his report he mentioned a permanent spring to the north of the huts, probably the primary source of water for the settlement.
On looking through some old maps of the area I noticed that, on the 1950 OS map, a cluster of tumuli had been marked around the spring. If these tumuli were burial mounds it could mean that that spring held some significance, other than a source of water, to the people who lived there in the past.
The spring emerges from the hillside into a man-made stone-lined trough and then flows down to the Codhill Beck. There is a standing stone close to the well, the sides of the stone have been dressed, this is probably an estate boundary stone. Unfortunately the moor above the site is covered in deep heather, I was unable to find the mounds marked on the OS map.
Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol.39 1958 & Vol.44 1972
Old Roads & Pannier Ways in North East Yorkshire. Raymond H Hayes. 1988
Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland